Sunday, April 24, 2005

Hundreds of Thousands of Poor to Lose Health Coverage in Months

Legislatures are looking to cut Medicaid or add fees. Missouri is poised to end the program, which many of the poor rely upon for care.

April 24, 2005

By Stephanie Simon, Times Staff Writer

SIKESTON, Mo. — Hundreds of thousands of poor people across the nation will lose their state-subsidized health insurance in the coming months as legislators scramble to hold down the enormous — and ever-escalating — cost of Medicaid.

Here in impoverished southeast Missouri, nurses at a family health clinic stash drug samples for patients they know won't be able to afford their prescriptions after their coverage is eliminated this summer. Doctors try to comfort waitresses, sales clerks and others who will soon lose coverage for medical, dental and mental healthcare.
Lawmakers say they feel for those who will lose coverage. But they say also that they have no alternative.


Prenatal checkups, care in nursing homes and other health services for the poor and disabled account for more than 25% of total spending in many states. Medicaid is often a state's single biggest budget item, more expensive even than K-12 education. And the price of services, especially prescription drugs and skilled nursing for the elderly, continues to soar.

The federal government helps pay for Medicaid, but in the coming fiscal year, the federal contribution will drop by more than $1 billion because of changes in the cost-share formula. President Bush has warned of far deeper cuts to come; he aims to reduce federal spending on Medicaid by as much as $40 billion over the next decade.

"It's frightening a lot of governors," said Diane Rowland, executive director of the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured.

Every state has frozen or is trying to cut the fees they pay doctors to care for Medicaid patients. More than a dozen states are looking for ways to cut the number of people covered — or reduce their benefits. Several are proposing restructuring the entire program.

In Tennessee, Gov. Phil Bredesen plans to end coverage for more than 320,000 adults, many of them elderly. In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to shift more Medicaid recipients into managed care and require some to pay monthly premiums.

Minnesota may stop insuring 27,000 college students and adults without children. Washington state may require senior citizens to pay $3 for each prescription that Medicaid used to provide for free.

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush have proposed privatizing Medicaid. Bush wants to give recipients vouchers so they can shop around for their own insurance plans. Sanford wants to set up Medicaid bank accounts; the state would deposit a fixed sum of money for each patient to spend on medical expenses.

In Missouri, where nearly one in five residents is enrolled in Medicaid, Gov. Matt Blunt is poised to sign the most drastic overhaul of all: a bill that would eliminate the program entirely in three years.

Blunt expects that by then, the state will have established an alternative mechanism for helping the poorest of the poor. But the legislation on his desk does not insist on it. It only states that Missouri Medicaid will cease on June 30, 2008.

In the meantime, the bill severely cuts the existing program, ending coverage for an estimated 65,000 to 100,000 people....,0,3416218.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Events in Ecuador

Even as someone who thinks he was following recent Ecuadorian politics (my girlfriend came from there), the departure of President Lucio Gutierrez came as a suprise.

Perhaps a suprise because we (outside the country) got such bad (and repetitive) repporting. Even in the age if internet, sometimes even the most basic bits of information can't be sucked from google news: After Guitierrez back-tracked on the Supreme Court issue, what did these marchers want? Are they from the left or right? Was the Constituion violated in his removal?

We do know the OAS has not legitimized the new leader - the ex Vice-President Alfredo Palacio. We know Guitierrez is holed up in the Brzillian Embassy seeking exile, while people in the streets are demanding he stay. Why not stay and assist in the strengthening of the rule of law (after the Supreme Court matter gets straightended out - that was a difficult problem that Guitierrez probably did not handle well. In fact I'm not sure he handled much well. As Castro said the fall "was forseeable."

But the Constitutional issues should not be skirted by anyone, including the United States, who call for an immediate (non-Constitutional) election. The 62 votes to strip the Presidency were obstencibly for the death of 2 people in the protests (the one I know of was 60 and died of a heart attack), as well as the Supreme Court move. But he had already relinquished control on that issue to the Congress. I would fight for Guitierrez's right to return if he cared enough to fight when push came to shove. He seems happy to go to Brazil.

Palacio seems to be to the left of Guitierrez, for Guitierrez's other sins were in in his dealing with the IMF and social welfare issues. For this reason the entire political class seems also to be on alert and the situation is volitile. We will wait to see.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Hai (Yes) ... White Sox best Start Since 1935

That is right, 12-4 yall. The starting pitching (plus Hermanson and Marte) has been astounding, as has the defense and baserunning, but we are also leading the AL in home runs at 20 (Paul Konerko stands alone with 7). We have won the first 2 games in every series we've played so far and topped all the Central division contenders.

At this point I have to remind America that our national experts at ESPN Baseball Tonight and Sports Center totally ignored the White Sox in their pre-season assesments, though they found time to mention Cleveland, Detroit, the Twins and even the Royals. But there was no mention of the White Sox by Kruk and Co.

No mention of Iguchi, the great looking 300 hitting 2b we picked up from Japan, let alone Takatsu, who floats unhittable frisbees up there with the best of em (19/20 saves last year). Or Podsednik's lead-off prowness (6 sb), or Carl Everett (4th in RBIs), or Crede's MLB best hit streak, or the starting pitching's under 2.50 average, or that we don't even have Frank Thomas yet.... let alone who Aaron Rowand is and that we also have Jermaine Dye.

It feels good. It feels possible, especially with the Yankees choking.

LA's Mayor Down 18 Points in Poll

The LA Mayor race is 2 weeks from the final showdown, with Mayor Jim (who) Hahn vs. "fancy suit" Antionio Villaraigosa. Very few people of Los Angeles, let alone anyone else, really cares. And they probably shouldn't. Though a first term Mayor in this crazy city is likely to get a rare boot by the first Latino Mayor since the 1780s, few expect any significant changes.

The election has come down to Antonio playing it so safe that you can bareley tell the old Tony is standing there. His "stagnation and investigation... "time for a fresh start" rhetoric has become borderline offensive - even for a supporter like me.

But I support Antonio because, even though I work for Jim Hahn, I don't know him. I don't know what he thinks, beyond when he gets cornered into a position. Anonio's background is impressively liberal - ACLU, Unions, education and park bills, John Kerry state chair in 2004... but still I can't say that he's that different from Hahn. But I trust Antonio more to do right for South LA.

On urban planning and preservation issues, Antonio is generally to the better of Hahn, though not by much. He talks a good talk, but will he walk the walk? Hahn has actually not been bad on housing and planning issues... Antonio's ambitious vision of transit and fully funded affordable housing and inclusionary zoning tips the balance.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Cuba's Election.... Gets No US Coverage

The tyrannical outpost of Cuba held local and provincial elections on Sunday, with turnout that exceeded 96 (a figure rarely topped by countries where voting is mandaded). The delegates were chosen directly by local people in town hall settings, their campaigns were simple and funded by the people. There was no involvement of the Communist Party at all. The reason we know nothing about this in America is that it does not fit well within what we think we know about Cuba. So we ignore it.

Cubans Cast Ballots in Municipal Elections, Which Castro Lauds As 'Most Democratic in the World'

The Associated Press

More than 8 million Cubans on Sunday were electing 169 municipal assemblies across the island in elections that take place every 2 1/2 years.

Under Cuba's one-party system, city and provincial leaders, as well as representatives of the National Assembly, are elected by citizens on a local level. Anyone can be nominated to these posts, including non-members of the island's ruling communist party the only one recognized in Cuba's constitution.

The island's top leader, however, is not elected directly by citizens to the post of president. Representatives of the National Assembly nominate, then elect the president.

In Old Havana, voting sites were set up at schools and office buildings every few blocks. Signs saying "Vote early," and "Choose the best and most capable," were set up outside the booths alongside candidates' resumes.

Resumes included a photograph and listed age, marital status, education and experience of the candidates. Membership in the communist party was often included.

Cuba consistently defends its system as democratic, but critics of Castro's government argue that tight state control, a heavy police presence and neighborhood-watch groups that report on their neighbors prevent any real political freedom on the island.

Parliament Speaker Ricardo Alarcon said Cuba's electoral process was "superior to the multiparty system," arguing that it was real pluralism.

"In other words, everyone within society can nominate whoever they want, and then make up their own minds," he said.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Cuban Terrorist Crosses into US

A Cuban terrorist, caught with RPGs and sentenced for trying to kill President Fidel Castro, is preparing to apply for asylum in the United States. Luis Posada Carriles crossed illegally into the US from Mexico.

Mr Carriles, 77, is wanted in Venezuela over the bombing of a Cuban airliner in 1976.
Seventy-three people were killed in that attack. Mr Carriles later boasted of being responsible for a series of bomb attacks of Havana tourist spots in the 1990s.

Five years ago he was arrested in Panama and accused of plotting to kill Fidel Castro during a summit there. He was convicted of a conspiracy, but was later pardoned and freed by the outgoing Panamanian president - causing Cuba to break off diplomatic relations.

Since then he has been in hiding. Carilles will apply for asylum on Wednesday.

He says that his application will be based partly on his claim that he worked "directly and indirectly" for the CIA for years, and has thus helped US interests.

Story spliced from from BBC NEWS 4.12.2005


Thursday, April 07, 2005

Mexico's Political Future at Stake in Vote on Mayor

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's political future hangs in the balance when Congress votes on Thursday on whether to try to force the popular leftist mayor of Mexico City out of the race for president in 2006.

More than 100,000 protesters are expected to swarm to the capital's Zocalo, one of the world's largest squares, to urge deputies not to lift front-runner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's immunity from prosecution on a contempt-of-court charge.

Lopez Obrador is likely to go to jail pending trial if he loses the vote. If he is later found guilty by a court, he would probably be banned from elections next year to replace conservative President Vicente Fox.

The relevance is that Obrador is a Socialist and has been the leading Presidential Candidate for 18 months. He would upset the conservative PAN and take a distant 3rd leftist Party into the country's leading political force. The Party of Democratic Revolution (PRD) is anti NAFTA and neoliberalism, pro-Cuba, pro social rights...

That the right is trying to disqualify Obrador for building an airport access road is beyond absurd. If it were Zimbabwe it would be proof of massive authoritaranism.